Monday, August 15, 2022

SEC Media Days 2022: Commissioner Greg Sankey shoots down league expanding in reaction to Big Ten moves

ATLANTA — Commissioner Greg Sankey addressed an elephant in the room during his “State of the SEC speech” at the College Football Hall of Fame on Monday morning as he ushered in this week’s SEC Media Days event. On the topic of realignment around college football and the SEC potentially adding more programs in addition to Texas and Oklahoma, Sankey held firm that his league isn’t interested in expanding further at as of the moment.

“There’s no sense of urgency in our league,” he said. “No panic in reaction to others’ decisions. We know who we are. We are confident in our collective strength and we are uniquely positioned to continue to provide remarkable experiences educationally and athletically, along with world-class support to student athletes.”

The college football world was stunned earlier this summer when USC and UCLA abruptly announced a move from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten in 2024. That stunning development led to massive speculation on what dominoes will be the next to fall in the realignment wave that began at SEC Media Days last summer with the news of Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC broke.

Sankey’s comments don’t rule out the mindset changing in the future, though.

“Do we face headwinds in college sports? Absolutely. It’s actually not new. It’s a decades-old problem, and those decades-old problems now rest firmly on our agendas. The SEC will not be complacent, even with the acknowledgement that we’re in a position of strength,” he said.

Sankey is comfortable with where his conference stands right now, but there’s still work to be done on the expansion front. Texas and Oklahoma are slated to join no later than 2025, but the Big 12 is adding four teams next season — one year before the Bruins and Trojans join the Big Ten. The moving parts around the country have led to speculation that the Longhorns and Sooners could accelerate the process if it makes sense from a financial perspective. 

The commissioner, however, isn’t the one pulling those strings.

“That’s not up to me. That’s about the relationship between Oklahoma, Texas and the Big 12,” Sankey said. “We are focused on the addition coming July 1, 2025.”

The Big Ten’s move to become a national superpower caught Sankey off guard while he was on vacation, but he still views his future membership as superior to what the Big Ten did with USC and UCLA. He cited that the rivalries that will be restored — including the now-dormant Texas-Texas A&M rivalry — as the primary reason that his moves on the realignment front do more for his conference than Kevin Warren’s at the Big Ten.

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